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June 11, 2007

Ho megas anaginoskei (The Greatness reads)

You may recall a post from last April, in which I listed my various avocational goals. While I managed to get through the pile of unread books, much else is yet unachieved. (Nor, for that matter, have I got eight subordinates. Maybe this September.) But I'm making some real progress on New Testament Greek.

Those not in the know about ancient Greek pedagogy (which, I figure, is most of you) may not be aware of its profoundly statistical style of teaching, a pattern common to several other "closed" knowledge systems. For example, when I was studying music composition at JMU, I had points taken off an exam for writing a Bach chorale which, while not breaking any rules of the Common Practice period, nevertheless was something Bach himself had only done three times. This judgment did not seem fair to me, but I remember being impressed at how precisely they knew Bach's work.

Learning NT Greek exposes you to even more precision. As in: anaginosko ("read") and its forms are used 33 times in the NT, but only once in Revelation. Not sure what the present form of ecenodoxhsen ("showed hospitality") is? Don't sweat it; it never appears in the present tense, or in the aorist, imperfect, or optative, for that matter. If you memorize all of the words that occur more than 30 times, then you've got over 80% of the NT down cold. True, there are a lot of verb tenses. But take heart. Once you've learned how they work regularly and with the handful of irregulars actually found in the NT, you're done. That's all there is because there won't be any more Bibles written. Sure, you might have to hit the books again to read Xenophon or Homer, but maybe somebody's made a word list for those, too.

I passed a major milestone in this work by reading a whole book of the New Testament. Okay, so it was Philemon, a mere 25 verses. But you try it and see how far you get!

Posted by The Greatness at June 11, 2007 03:22 PM